in the {mother} hood monday :: building them up or shutting them down

daughterbefore i had kids, i knew that i wanted to be the kind of mom who encouraged my kids in every endeavor (as long as it didn't hurt anyone, obviously).  i wanted their creativity to always shine.  for example, i was against them going to a school where uniforms would be required because one way we express ourselves is through what we choose to wear. i didn't want to pigeon hole my boy child(ren) into playing with trucks and trains while my girl child(ren) wore pink frilly dresses and played with dolls.  i wanted to be a patient, non-screaming, never-in-a-hurry, always-paying-attention kind of mom. i wanted to treat my children's thoughts as equally important as mine.  i will never forget an incident from when i was 9 years old.  i was at a party for all the people in my apartment building (it was family housing for medical residents).  i was pouring myself a drink when a little 3 year old child came up and said he was thirsty.  i bent down and said, "what would you like?"  as i was telling him the options, i heard a woman nearby say in a derogatory fashion to her friend, "imagine...giving a three year old a choice!"  and they both laughed their tinkly, all-knowing laughs.  i remember standing up and giving them a look of indignation.  why shouldn't a 3 year old be given a choice?

but as you parents out there probably know, those plans you had for childbirth and those plans for how you were going to raise your children sometimes fall by the wayside, when real-life with real kids happens. i had 3 c-sections even though i never read those chapters in my "what to expect when you're expecting" book. my kids attend a school where uniforms are required. my son only wanted to play with trucks and trains until he found lego. my daughters love everything pink, frilly, and doll related. sometimes i am in a hurry and sometimes i yell.

i'm currently struggling with a few parenting issues. i want to teach my kids how to survive in this world with all its rules and structure, while allowing their creativity and passion to thrive and grow without getting trampled. maybe you can help.

fitting in / wearing the right thing :: a couple weeks ago my son asked to sign up for an intramural basketball team at school so i said yes and then promptly lost the signup form and we missed the first day of practice. (i used to harbor dreams of being organized). the next time practice came around, he came home from school pouty and upset because the other kids had gotten a uniform jersey on that first day. he didn't want to be the only kid at practice without one so he wanted to stay home. my immediate reaction was to say "that's so silly - who cares if you don't have on the jersey, you're just going to see your friends and have fun learning the game." that didn't go over well. and then i thought back to a couple weeks prior when about 300 people were posting on their blogs about what outfits they were wearing to a conference (alt). most of us want to feel comfortable and fit in. i know, i know...there are people who prefer to stand out and be different. but he's 8. he doesn't. so i'm torn. i want him to realize that what you wear doesn't matter as much as who you are. but i also want to support him and help him feel comfortable through these tricky times of childhood. maybe if i support him now, he'll grow up to be someone who knows who he is and doesn't care too much about what's on the outside.

on quitting :: i grew up learning that you should finish something that you start. never quit. i am a coach and i tell my athletes all the time to never give up. ben silbermann of pinterest says most successful people are the ones who never stopped. on the other hand, i've been hearing a message from the universe this year that if you are doing something that you really don't enjoy and that isn't working for you, stop doing it. make room for the things that you do enjoy and that do work for you. gretchen rubin is a proponent of this.  my daughters started taking dance this year after asking and begging for a loooong time. but every tuesday, they grumbled and complained about going. and every tuesday i had to take unhappy girls to dance class and pay money for it. nobody was happy. so i let them quit. i debated a long time about this. do i let them quit and try to find something different that they love doing? or is it better to make them stick it out for the year and pay a lot of money to have 40 unhappy tuesdays to demonstrate that you shouldn't give up? i think i decided that the message should be to try things to see if you like them. if you don't, then stop and try something else. but here's the thing. just because something is HARD doesn't mean you don't like it. you shouldn't quit just because something is HARD. if you really want to be a dancer and you love it (most of the time), then you should keep at it. even when it's hard, especially when it's hard. because if you love it, and you get through the tough parts, glorious things will happen. persistence and taking no for an answer :: i have a totally intense 4 year old that sometimes just won't accept no for an answer. here is a very abbreviated example :: her :: "can i have a snack?" me :: "not right now." her :: "but why?!" me :: "because we are having dinner in a few minutes" her :: "but mom! i really want one!" me :: "no, honey" her :: "ok then i'll get it myself." me :: "no, we are going to have dinner. and that's like a big, giant snack." her :: "but mom, it will be a healthy snack."

and so it goes until she has worn me to the bone.  i just want to dig in my heels and scream "NO! NO means NO! when i give you an answer you have to accept it and move on to something else."   but what if michael jordan had listened when his first coach told him he wasn't good enough to play basketball?  what if my daughter tries to get a book deal and gives up and moves on from that dream when she is told no by a publisher.  i don't want to her to take no for an answer when she's going after her dreams. i don't want her to think that you should give up on what you really want. but in the meantime, what about that snack?